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Entries in Prince Fielder (25)

Friday
Jun222012

My All Star Starters: AL 1B

Next up is my choice for American League First Baseman. Voting totals can be found here.

The first baseman used to be the position where teams would shove the unathletic slugger and sacrifice defense for the sake of a big bat. With the game shifting back towards the pitchers, defensive first basemen are more important than ever. A first baseman can cut errors off from teammates by making smooth plays with quick hands and feet. The first baseman is as much a part of the game as anyone else, needing to be focused on every play in the event of a ground ball. First base in the American League is still a position of hitting strength, especially as two of the NL's biggest hitters made their way over to the AL to hook up with contenders. On to the analysis:

 

#1. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers 1,946,045

Prince Fielder has lived up to the hype. In a previous article, I questioned whether Prince was the next King of Motown, and he may well be on his way. I projected his stat line to be somewhere along the lines of a .287 AVG, .376 OBP, .617 SLG, .993 OPS, 50 HR, and 121 RBI. Here we'll analyze Fielder's success thus far and determine if he is on pace to meet that goal. 

Prince has showcased his durability by showing up in 69 games so far this season. Much to the disappointment of the Tigers, the power numbers have not quite been Fielder-like. Isolated power is a statistic that measures a players ability to hit for extra bases, providing some "pop" to the offense. From 2008-2011, Fielder was able to connect for power on pitches throughout the strike zone, but this season, it seems like he is missing a hitter's favorite pitch - right down the middle.

Fielder should be feasting on pitches in the middle of the zone, but he has yet to find his power stroke there, and it has cost him some home runs early on. Let's look at his stats to this point.

69 G, 80 H, 15 2b, 1 3b, 11 HR, 30 BB, 40 SO, 45 RBI, 1 SB, .309 AVG, .386 OBP, .502 SLG

The average and on base percentage are above my projections for Fielder, but the slugging is way down, as he has settled for only 27 extra base hits out of his 80. Compared to other first basemen in the American League, Fielder is absolutely all-star worthy as a middle of the order presence who has had a little trouble adjusting to the not so friendly confines of Comerica Park. If Fielder settles in and starts launching balls left in the middle of the plate, he will put up monster numbers in the second half.

 

#2. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox 1,680,793

Has anyone ever been as quiet a productive hitter as Paul Konerko has been in his career. For fantasy fans, Konerko is your prototypical .300/25/95 lock every season, and so far he is by no means disappointing anyone. Did you know he leads American League qualifiers in batting average at .354?! Konerko is like a fine wine; he continues to get better with age. Some of his success this year can be attributed to his ability to hit pitches in the upper half of the strike zone. 

The right handed slugger has increased his ability to drive the ball in the upper part of the zone, leading to a higher batting average as he takes advantage of pitchers' mistakes. One of the tough breaks for Konerko is that he is in a lineup that has struggled to get on in front of him when he muscles up; runners have been on base for only four of his thirteen home runs. Here are Konerko's numbers to this point.

62 G, 81 H, 14 2b, 13 HR, 26 BB, 37 SO, 39 RBI, .354 AVG, .426 OBP, .585 SLG

In seven less games, he has accumulated one more hit than Fielder, as well as two more home runs. He is sixth in the AL in RBI and tied for second in home runs. He has the highest OBP and SLG among qualifying first basemen and has been all around one of the best hitters in baseball over the first half. Konerko is a stud, and with one week left in voting, he could easily overtake Fielder for the starting nod at Kauffman Stadium.

 

#3. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees 1,405,187

Tex has slowly been on the decline the past couple of seasons. Between 2008 and 2009, Teixeira played for three different teams, all the while averaging .300, hitting 72 home runs, and knocking in 241 RBI. After his first season in pinstripes, the average dropped off the table, as he has hit a paltry .253 since '09. The home runs and RBI have always stayed about the same, as he continued to have 30+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons. Teixeira is one of the few switch hitters in this league that you can say does not lose much power when switching sides of the plate, as evidenced by his .460/.484 right-handed/left-handed splits for slugging percentage. At this point in his career, it is safe to say that Tex has developed into a pull power hitter, as ten of his twelve home runs have been to the pull field, bolstering a .406 ISO when pulling the ball. Take a look below at Teixeira's pull field heat zones.

Tex has been a commodity at first base for a long time, coupling power form both sides of the plate with gold glove caliber defense throughout his career. His ability to perform in a big market and produce power numbers at a steady rate make him one of the best in the game, but not quite at all-star starter level this season. His stats are below.

65 G, 62 H, 17 2b, 12 HR, 28 BB, 37 SO, 40 RBI, 1 SB, .256 AVG, 336 OBP, .475 SLG. 

Overall, Tex's numbers are fantastic, and he should definitely be considered for a reserve role on the team.

 

#4. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers 1,202,724

Now I think Mitch Moreland is as good as the next guy, but I believe there are plenty of players having a better season at the first base bag. Moreland only cracks the top ten in traditional stats for first basemen in HRs with ten. Every other statistic calls Moreland out as an above average first baseman in the league. Since he has been connecting on home runs, we will look at the general locations of where he is hitting the ball for out of the park power.

As you can see, Moreland has been taking advantage of balls left out over the plate on the outer half. As long as he continues to contribute at least HRs to Texas' lineup, the rest of the team will carry the load in other respects. Let's take a look at his stats.

55 G, 43 H, 8 2b, 10 HR, 12 BB, 31 SO, 25 RBI, .272 AVG, .326 OBP, .513 SLG

The power numbers are there, but I find it hard to believe that a guy with half as many hits at Konerko and Fielder should be given the nod in the Summer Classic.

 

Wild Card: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

So "The Machine" has finally flipped the switch to on, and pumped the volume up to eleven. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he turned on his stroke, but a horrific first month may have cost him a berth in the all-star game. After Pujols launched his first home run, everything turned around. Below, we look at his slugging percentage from before his first long ball, and after. 

Pre-First HR

Post-First HR

It was only a matter of time before Albert figured it out, and he is positively crushing the ball right now. After he hit that first home run, he started punishing mistake pitches left in the zone. Here is a look at his total stat line.

69 G, 69 H, 17 2b, 11 HR, 24 BB, 34 K, 43 RBI, 4 SB, .255 AVG, .312 OBP, .439 SLG

The numbers are not quite there for an all star appearance at the half, but to not be concerned; Albert Pujols will have an amazing second half if he stays the hitter in the second graphic.

 

MY RESULTS:

Starter: Paul Konerko

Reserve: Prince Fielder

3: Mark Teixeira

4: Chris Davis (Didn't discuss him but he is having quite the season out in Baltimore)

Monday
May142012

Prince's Power Outage

The Tigers dished out $214 million this past offseason to get Prince Fielder's thunderous bat in the lineup alongside Miguel Cabrera. The 28-year-old, on Detroit's radar since he reached the upper deck during batting practice as a boy in old Tiger Stadium while father Cecil played there, averaged 38 home runs per season and slugged .541 during his six years as a regular with the Brewers. But that power hasn't been on display so far for the Tigers, who enter play Monday at a disappointing 17-17 while ranking eighth in the American League in runs scored.

Fielder has gone deep just five times this year, and an 0-for-22 stretch has dropped his slugging percentage down to .406. Prince pummeled most anything thrown below the belt in 2011, as his slugging percentage by pitch location shows...

Fielder's slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

But so far this year, his heat map in Motown is awfully blue in those regions...

Fielder's slugging percentage by pitch location, 2012

Prince actually has a higher slugging percentage against changeups this year than last, but he's not putting those signature uppercut clouts on fastballs or breaking stuff:

Pitch2011 Slugging Pct.2012 Slugging Pct.MLB Avg.
Fastball .667 .436 .440
Slider .500 .455 .345
Curveball .510 .333 .340
Changeup .433 .563 .384

 

Fielder clearly isn't hitting with the same gusto as usual, as his average fly ball distance this season is down to 262 feet from last season's mark of 288 (the big league average is about 268 feet). While Comerica Park isn't as well-suited to Fielder's swing as Miller Park, he should start hitting with authority again soon. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection system has Prince hitting 25 more homers and slugging .493 from here on out. There's plenty of reason to worry about Fielder's deal in the long run, but it's highly unlikely that his power stroke is already on the wane in 2012.

Saturday
Jan282012

Porcello, Fister Should Fear Detroit's Infield D

The Detroit Tigers' decision to put $214 million man Prince Fielder at first base instead of DH and move Miguel Cabrera, who last played third base regularly five years and fifty pounds ago, to the hot corner has some wondering whether Detroit's quest for maximum offense might produce the worst defensive infield seen in years.

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer probably aren't too worried, considering both are high-strikeout hurlers who induce fly balls when hitters do make contact. But Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, who put the ball in play and on the ground much more often, might be sweating the prospect of pairing the plus-sized corner infielders with shortstop Jhonny Peralta and a combination of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago at the keystone.

Porcello's punchout rate (13.3% of batters faced) ranked in the 18th percentile among starting pitchers (meaning he was worse than 82 percent of starters). Fister (16.7 K%) fared better, but he still placed in the bottom half (45th percentile). With few Ks, Porcello and Fister both ranked in the top 20 among American League starters in the percentage of pitches swung at put in play:

PitcherIn Play Pct.
Joel Pineiro 53.6%
Brad Penny 51.2%
Jeff Francis 50.4%
Nick Blackburn 50.1%
Phil Coke 49.7%
Trevor Cahill 49.0%
Mark Buehrle 48.9%
Freddy Garcia 48.4%
Carl Pavano 48.3%
Rick Porcello 48.0%
Ivan Nova 48.0%
Blake Beavan 47.9%
Tyler Chatwood 47.5%
Zach Britton 47.3%
Josh Tomlin 47.2%
Tim Wakefield 46.5%
Bartolo Colon 46.5%
Jeremy Guthrie 45.9%
Brett Anderson 45.7%
Doug Fister 45.6%

 

And when batters put the ball in play against these two, it's often on the grass. Both had ground ball rates above the league average, with Porcello burning worms 54% of the time and Fister doing so 47%. Lots of balls in play, and lots of grounders: not a good combination for a club with four infielders whose best position is "hitter."

Porcello bore the brunt of sloppy infield D in 2011, as he had a .283 batting average on grounders put in play. That was 44 points above the league average for starters and was fourth-highest among AL starters (teammate Scherzer was third, though he had far fewer grounders put in play). Fister, by contrast, enjoyed a .196 BABIP on grounders while spending most of the season in Seattle. Suffice it to say, that's not likely to happen in 2012.

Miggy, Prince, Peralta and Raburn make for a formidable infield offensively, and their defensive foibles might not get that much notice on days when Verlander and Scherzer (second and 17th, respectively, among AL starters in K rate) are on the bump. But when pitch-to-contact, ground ball-centric pitchers like Porcello and Fister take their turns, look for lots of singles.

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